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Shining a Light on the Darker Side of Solar Power

It’s Time to Stop Spending Taxpayer Dollars on Elon Musk and Cronyism

(This artcile originally appeared in The Daily Signal on November 13, 2016)  From Enron to Bernie Madoff, at the end of every great American financial scandal, the totality of the perpetrators’ greed seems to be matched only by the public’s incredulity at how such a thing could be allowed to happen.  And thanks to Elon Musk, there’s a good chance we may all be asking this question again soon.  The Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee have launched a probe into tax incentives paid to solar companies, according to The Wall Street Journal. The committee probes, led by their respective Republican chairmen, Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas and Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, have found an appropriate and disturbing target to begin this work.  SolarCity, a solar installation company set to be purchased by Tesla Motors Inc., is one of the seven companies named in the initial investigation.  Already grossly subsidized, Musk’s SolarCity has become an albatross of waste, fraud, and abuse of tax payer dollars. As legitimate earnings and cash become even scarcer for SolarCity, its entanglement in the Tesla empire suggests that a drastic reckoning not only is imminent, but in fact emboldening Musk to become more outlandish and reckless.  Notably, SolarCity is run by Musk’s cousins, Lyndon and Peter Rive. During his chairmanship at SolarCity, Musk’s family enterprise has taken in billions of taxpayer dollars in subsidies from both the federal and local governments. But the subsidies and sweetheart deals were not enough, as losses and missed projections continued to mount.  Ultimately, rather than endure the embarrassment of collapse and further damage to the public image of Musk and Tesla, the cousins conspired to have Tesla simply purchase SolarCity this year. The conditions of the deal screamed foul play.

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Florida's Solar Electric Choice Ballot Question Will Benefit All Consumers

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This article originally appeared on EnergyCentral.com on November 2, 2016

Florida’s Question 1 on Solar will benefit consumers because it authorizes the adoption of important consumer protection policies and regulations for the solar industry.  Consumers may be interested in solar power to help the environment, or simply to save money on their electric bills. Whether purchased or leased, the consumer is making a financial commitment with the expectation that savings on utility bills will offset all or a large portion of the monthly cost of the system.  It is too easy for a consumer to be misled into a purchase based on exaggerated assumptions about future savings. Consumer complaints have prompted states to take action in the courts, and propose consumer protections to address abuses. The most typical arrangement for customers who cannot afford the full cost of installation is a lease agreement.  The homeowner enters into a lease agreement and makes pre-established monthly payments to the solar company, who retains ownership of the system for the contract term.  A consumer’s actual monthly savings in energy bills will depend on the increase in electricity rates over the contract term, any net metering or value of state solar tariff programs, as well as new or increased fees that solar customers are required to pay.  It is vital to have uniform disclosures on the assumptions that the solar company used for the contract, as well as providing information on the limitations of the savings estimates.

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Amendment 1 is the right choice for solar in Florida

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Dick Batchelor, co-chairman of Consumers for Smart Solar, is a former chairman of the Florida House Energy Committee and former chairman of the Florida Environmental Regulation Commission. This Op-Ed appeared in the Tampa Bay Times on October 27, 2016. 

The Tampa Bay Times formalized its longstanding opposition to Amendment 1 in a recent editorial. Unfortunately, like our opponents, the Times would like voters to decide this issue based on everything except what the amendment actually says and does. Those who are not sure about how to vote on this issue should ask three simple questions: Should the right of every Floridian to generate his or her own solar electricity be protected? Should solar energy companies have to abide by the same consumer protection rules that all other energy providers must follow? Should those who don't choose solar be protected from having to pay higher electric bills to subsidize someone else's decision to go solar? If you answered yes, then you should vote yes on Amendment 1. Because that's all it does.

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Amendment 1 will grow solar the right way in Florida

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This op-ed originally appeared in the Orlando Sun-Sentinel on October 24, 2016

Should the right of every Floridian to generate his or her own solar electricity be protected? Should solar energy companies have to abide by the same consumer protection rules that all other energy providers must follow? Should those who don't choose solar be protected from having to pay higher electric bills to subsidize someone else's decision to go solar? If you answered "yes" to these questions, then you should vote Yes on Amendment 1, because that is precisely what Amendment 1 does.

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New Report Details Massive Taxpayer Subsidies to the Struggling Solar Industry

Solyndra.  SunEdison.  Abengoa.  Abound Solar.  What do all these failed solar companies have in common?  They were all propped up by taxpayers and experienced tremendous growth, only to crash and burn upon being thrown against a wall of reality, realizing that their success was all a ruse.  A new report from the Consumer Energy Alliance details the numerous ways by which federal and state governments incentivize the solar industry as an alternative source of energy.  Numerous financial incentives exist for residential solar panel users – residential tax credits, net energy metering, third party owner incentives, Renewable Energy Certificates, and several others.  The combined effect of direct and net metering incentives alone, for example, exceed the cost of installing solar panels.  That is to say, consumers can pay for solar panels and make a profit, all thanks to taxpayers.

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